Nowadays, there’s a common misconception that it’s simply impossible to find truly great pizza in America outside of cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Well it’s time to put that to bed once and for all. There’s great pizza to be found in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, and we’ve tracked down the best of the best.
Over the past 30 years, chef Frank Stitt has been credited for significantly raising the bar in Alabama’s culinary scene. As if the success of his restaurant Highlands Bar and Grill and the roster of culinary talents that have launched their own successful careers after spending time in his kitchen weren’t impressive enough, he’s now going ahead and doing the same thing for the state’s pizza scene. While devoted regulars may have trouble steering themselves away from Stitt’s classic dishes at Café Bottega like the seared beef carpaccio, Niçoise salad, and chicken scaloppini, they’ll find themselves particularly rewarded by any of the eight pizzas on the menu. There’s a white pie with fennel sausage, a grilled chicken and pesto combination, and even a pizza with okra and corn. But the signature pie that the restaurant pointed to as the biggest crowd-pleaser is the “Farm Egg,” topped with mushrooms, guanciale, Taleggio, and porcini oil.
Ask anyone where to go for pizza in Anchorage and you’ll likely be directed to the renowned Midtown Anchorage nightlife spot Moose’s Tooth Pub and Pizzeria — the pizza place that has been locals’ go-to since the late 1990s when fellow rock climbers Rod Hancock and Matt Jones, despite having virtually no restaurant experience, launched a 30-table restaurant serving draft beer and stone-baked pizzas. Now, Moose’s Tooth is regularly noted by publications looking to cast a wide net as among the best pizzerias in the country. These days, the menu features almost 40 pizzas with names just as creative as their topping combinations, but the Avalanche is their most well-known, featuring barbecue sauce, mozzarella, provolone, Cheddar, red onions, blackened chicken, and bacon — a pizza that will need a similarly signature beverage, say the house-brewed and assertively hopped Fairweather IPA.
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"There’s no mystery to my pizza," Bronx native Chris Bianco was quoted as saying in The New York Times. "Sicilian oregano, organic flour, San Marzano tomatoes, purified water, mozzarella I learned to make at Mike's Deli in the Bronx, sea salt, fresh yeast cake and a little bit of yesterday's dough. In the end great pizza, like anything else, is all about balance. It's that simple.''
Try telling that to the legions of pizza pilgrims who have visited the storied Phoenix pizza spot he opened more than 20 years ago. The restaurant serves not only addictive thin-crust pizzas but also fantastic antipasto (involving wood-oven-roasted vegetables), perfect salads, and homemade country bread. The wait, once routinely noted as one of the worst for some of the best food in the country, has been improved by Pizzeria Bianco starting to serve lunch, the opening of Trattoria Bianco, the pizza prince of Arizona’s Italian restaurant in the historic Town & Country Shopping Center (about 10 minutes from the original), and an outpost in Tucson.
Yelp/ Kent A.
Wood Stone has been bringing top notch pizza to South Fayetteville’s Mill District since summer 2014. Owners Clayton Suttle and Jerrmy Gawthorp are crafting some unique and high-quality pizzas made with impeccably sourced ingredients (local when possible) and firing them in a custom-built wood burning oven. Standouts include the Bloomington (caramelized onion and rosemary marmalade, gorgonzola, housemade Italian sausage, and rosemary); Late Harvest (local butternut squash puree, uncured ham, bacon, housemade ricotta, sage, parmesan, roasted Brussels sprouts, and honey gastrique); and the Carolina (smoked local pork, mustard barbecue sauce, asiago cream sauce, roasted red onion, cabbage slaw). Dip the “bones” in your choice of five sauces, and wash it down with a local beer.
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Renowned baker and chef Nancy Silverton teamed with Italian culinary moguls Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich to open Osteria Mozza, a Los Angeles hot spot where the famous clientele pales in comparison to the innovative, creative fare. The pizzeria, attached to the main restaurant, offers a variety of Italian specialties, from antipasti to bruschetta, but the Neapolitan pizzas steal the show.
Their list of 21 pies ranges from a simple aglio e olio, a classic cheese pizza, to a more unique pie with squash blossoms, tomato, and burrata — a delicious and simple pizza that transports through the quality and nuance of its ingredients. No matter where you eat this pizza or what you order, you’re going to get a beautifully executed, superior puffy cornicione and excellent ingredients.
It shouldn’t be surprising that Frasca, one of America’s best restaurants, launched an offshoot that serves some of America’s best pizza. The pizzeria offers 11 “Classics,” (seven red, four white), but you’re probably going to want to build your own from a selection of more than 25 toppings including eggplant, Calabrian chiles, corn, smoked mozzarella, pork meatballs, and prosciutto.
Facebook/ Frank Pepe's of New Haven
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana is a checklist destination, one you’ll have to make a pilgrimage to if you want to discuss the topic of America's best pizza with any authority. The New Haven icon opened in Wooster Square in 1925, offering classic Napoletana-style pizza made by an Italian-American immigrant. After arriving in the United States in 1909 at the age of 16, Frank Pepe (watch him at work in this video) took odd jobs before opening his original restaurant (the location, now called "The Spot," is now an adjunct to the main Pepe's location).
There are now eight locations around Connecticut, one in New York State, and one in Boston, operated by Pepe’s 10 great-grandchildren (all of whom use the original recipe to make their coal-fired pizza), with a Waterbury, Conn. pizzeria scheduled to open any day now.
Two words: clam pie. This is a Northeastern pizza genre unto its own, and Pepe's is the best of all — freshly shucked, briny littleneck clams, an intense dose of garlic, olive oil, oregano, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano atop a charcoal-colored crust. The advanced move? Clam pie with bacon. Of course, Pepe’s summer special, their seasonal “fresh tomato pie” made with locally grown tomatoes, is worth its own trip (and the addition of shrimp to a tomato pie is an under-hyped gem of a combination).
No matter what you’re thinking of ordering, expect to wait in line if you get there after 11:30 a.m. on a weekend.
Yelp/ Laura M.
What got its start as a traveling wood-burning oven in the back of an old red Ford pickup making stops at farmers’ markets and private parties is now a brick-and-mortar restaurant serving the best pizzas in Delaware. Dough is made from scratch using unbleached, unbromated flour; toppings are organic and locally-sourced whenever possible; and ingredients including sausage and pickles are made in-house. Twelve-inch pizzas are separated into three menu sections: Classic (Margherita, pepperoni, bianco); All-Stars (the Spicy Italian, with hot Italian sausage, pepperoni, fresh jalapenos, tomato sauce, and mozzarella); and Seasonal (Sweet Italian, with sausage, local rainbow Swiss chard, local organic Crimini mushrooms, tomato sauce, and mozzarella).
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Scuola Vecchia brings a host of traditional Italian pizzas to Delray Beach with a ton of different options for every pizza-lover. Guests can choose from 25 different pizzas from the traditional Margherita to more complex pies like the capricciosa with fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, Italian ham, artichokes, mushrooms, and extra-virgin olive oil. But if you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, there’s the option to build your own pie, starting with the foundation of either a marinara or Margherita.
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Bronx-born software engineer Jeff Varasano found a passion for pizza that led him down a saucy, bubbly road to pizza stardom. Atlanta has been the lucky beneficiary. It’s the city where Varasano has made a well-documented six-year stab at recreating his version of the Patsy’s pizza, which he credited with changing his life. The fact that the pizza isn’t quite Patsy’s-esque isn’t a bad thing. There’s a taller cornicione featuring a shard-thin exterior that gives to pliant air pockets and a soft underlying crust. This means more textural variation with each bite.
Varasano's serves two traditional pies: Margherita di Bufala and "Nana's," which is the house special: mozzarella and San Marzano tomato sauce with a “secret blend of herbs” (sweet roasted red peppers are suggested, too). There are 12 specialty pies with a variety of toppings (including interesting ones like Emmenthaler, a pinch of lemon zest, and spiced olives) that come standard, but menu notations suggest extras. Speaking of which, if you want to build your own or add to menu options, there are 17 toppings (including handmade meatballs). They do recommend adding only one to avoid overloading the thin crust, and call out capicola as “our best topping.” P.S. Varasano doesn’t make it often, but his Sicilian-style pie is supposed to be amazing, too. So it’s always worth asking about.
Yelp/ Chuco T.
An Irish pub, serving New York style pizza, in Hawaii? You better believe it. And not only that; the pizza at J.J. Dolan’s is really, good, the state’s best, in fact, with legions of devoted fans. You can buy cheese or pepperoni pizzas from the slice; choose from more than 20 toppings (including Spam, because Hawaii); choose from five “Classics” including Margherita, white pie, and spinach and garlic; or “Signature” pies including Boardwalk (Italian sausage, roasted peppers, onion, and garlic), Scampi (shrimp or chicken, mushrooms, and housemade scampi sauce), and Molto Formaggio, with six cheeses. But no matter what you order, you really can’t go wrong.
Yelp/ Hilary W.
Thanks to Guido’s, there’s a legit New York-style pizzeria in Boise, turning out some spectacular pies. Like all New York slice shops, this one is straight ahead and no-frills. You can get your pizza by the slice or in an 18- or 20-inch pie, and top it with a wide variety of meats and vegetables. Sausage rolls, Stromboli, and fresh baked garlic bread are also on the menu.
Yelp/ Dan B.
Pequod’s originator (the late Burt Katz) moved on from this endeavor after few years to take a break before opening a new pizza stalwart in 1989: Burt’s Place (which just reopened under new ownership) in Morton Grove, just north of Chicago. But the years have been kind to his legacy. Pequod’s deep dish, known for its “caramelized crust,” earns points for its chewy, crusty, quasi-burnt cheese crust that forms the outer edge of this cheesy casserole, adding a welcome degree of texture that probably wouldn’t be necessary if it weren’t nearly an inch thick. But it is necessary. And beautiful. And it does add that texture. And you can thank the fact that they spread a thin layer of cheese along the outer part of the crust where it darkens against the side of the pan.
Yelp/ Kaitlin S.
This upscale pizzeria and wine bar has been keeping the locals happy with some spectacular wood-fired pizzas since 2015. Just like in Naples, the pizzas cook in an 800-degree oven and come out bubbling and blistered after 90 seconds. The oven is also turning out some excellent pita bread, as one of the owners is Egyptian. There are 17 different pizza styles on offer, but the best one to sample is the Margherita, with simple tomato sauce, high quality mozzarella (make it burrata for an extra $2.50), and basil; two different crust styles (original and thin crust) are also available.
Yelp/ Andrea T.
You can practically envision the folks behind Gusto Pizza Co., friends Josh Holderness, Joe McConville and Tony Lemmo, sitting down over a few beers before opening their fresh and imaginative Des Moines pizza shop in 2011, and coming up with their menu as an hours-long snort-inducing punfest. “Thai Kwon Dough” with peanut sauce and chicken? “Seoul Food” pizza with Korean-style marinated skirt steak and Sriracha mayo? “Vincent Van Goat” with goat cheese and fried sweet peppers? “Fromage-A-Trois”? Very fun. But don’t mistake the levity for anything less than a serious approach to some delicious pizzas featuring some crispy-chewy thin crusts.
Yelp/ Julius D.
AJ’s isn’t kidding around when they call their pizza New York-style; the recipe is the same one that’s been used at a Brooklyn pizzeria for more than 50 years, and the owners consulted with a “dough doctor” named Tom Lehmann as well as the American Institute of Baking on their dough recipe. You can top your pizza with your choice of four sauces, 7 cheeses, 12 meats, and 15 vegetables, or you can choose from their 17 available options; if you really want a taste of New York (or as close as you’re going to get in these parts, at least), go for The Big Apple: sausage, pepperoni, ground beef, homemade meatballs, Canadian bacon, ham, mushrooms, onions, black olives, green peppers, mozzarella, and parmesan.
Housed in a former auto service garage in downtown Louisville, Garage Bar features Chef Michael Paley’s wood-fired pizzas that emphasize local ingredients. Highlighting the region’s specialties and tastes, Chef Paley serves brick oven pizzas with toppings that include housemade pepperoni and pancetta, local Prayer Mountain mushrooms, shaved country ham, and Broadbent bacon.
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There’s pizza on the menu at both Pizza Domenica and Domenica, which is Italian for Sunday (the former is in Uptown, the latter in the renovated and historic Roosevelt Hotel . The slightly imperfect circles are ringed with light, puffy, and black-blistered crusts, the centers of the pies sauce-speckled and beautifully topped with stellar (and fun) ingredients like bacon and eggs, peach and pecans, roasted carrots, smoked pork, and salsa verde — you’ll have a hard time choosing between the pizzas made in the Pavesi pecan-wood-fired oven.
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Micucci Grocery was opened in 1951 by Leo and Iris Micucci, and has been family-operated ever since. The reason to visit this Portland icon is in back, up the stairs to the left where “slabs” of American-interpreted Sicilian-style pizza are baked and set on shelves.
The word “slabs,” doesn’t do these slices justice — a curious hybrid for sure, they’re nowhere as heavy as the gut-bombs most descriptions convey. Half-again bigger than the conventional Sicilian, and just as thick if wetter and more doughy, Micucci’s slabs may not be authentic Italian, but they feel like an idealized iteration of the focaccia style you’ve always sought, never experienced.
Imagine a fluffy, light focaccia that’s doughy and a bit wetter than most with layers of bubbles. There’s a scattering of Italian herbs with cheese rivulets and sauce undercurrents around raised puffy sections of dough. There’s no undercrust to speak of, but crispy cheese in places, especially the edges.
It’s not pizza in any other traditional regional American sense, nor can you say it’s precisely Italian. But there’s something intensely right and satisfying about it.
Yelp/ Mia-Aurelia A.
This casual skater joint pub boasts some stellar local beers, arcade games, and some of the best pizza around. Featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, Johnny Rad’s is a massively popular local hangout, and chef/ owner Rich Pugh is turning out some seriously creative gourmet thin-crust pies. You can’t go wrong with the A-1 Meats (fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, bacon, prosciutto, sopressata, and basil) or the BBQ Chicken (barbecue sauce, Caesar cheese blend, fresh mozzarella, grilled chicken, and red onion); but if you’re looking to go vegetarian, eat what Guy ate and go for the Trainwreck, with tomato sauce, mushrooms, baby spinach, black olives, fresh mozzarella, and sea salt. Make sure you start with the risotto balls.
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The local favorite has already seen its fair share of fame after winning various best-of-Boston pizza lists over the years. Santarpio's, which opened in 1903, sticks to their traditional roots when it comes to the slightly chewy and satisfyingly wet slices. Their menu consists of a variety of options, but includes a list of customers' favorite combos, like a pie that combines sausage with garlic, ground beef, and onions; and even "The Works": mushrooms, onions, peppers, garlic, sausage, pepperoni, extra cheese, and anchovies. First-timer? Order Santarpio’s most popular pie — mozzarella, sausage, and garlic — to establish a baseline.
Detroit’s signature square pizza style is like a Sicilian slice on steroids. There's crisp, thick, deep-dish crust action, often formed from the process of twice-baking in square pans that have been brushed with oil or butter, and a liberal ladling of sauce spread across the cheese surface. It supposedly all started at Buddy’s Rendezvous, a neighborhood tavern, in 1946.
You may think that Detroit-style is confined to its home region, but consider that a few years ago, Alan Richman of GQ singled out Buddy’s as one of the 25 best pizzas in America; that California pizza royalty Tony Gemignani serves his version at several of his restaurants; and the style has started catching on in Texas and in New York with Emmy Squared. Try the signature Detroit Zoo pie from the Motor City Pizza Collection: Motor City Cheese blend, roasted tomatoes, fresh basil, pine nuts, and tomato basil sauce.
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With its colorful murals and delicious pies, Minneapolis’ Fat Lorenzo’s, the original and a "standard for the Twin Cities," is a dining experience tough to match. As its motto goes, it has been "Italian in a big way," proud of serving its New York-style pizza since 1987. The restaurant offers great pies such as the Fat’s (Italian sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, black and green olives); the Alfrenzo (with alfredo sauce, chicken, artichokes, roasted red peppers, spinach, ricotta, mozzarella, and provolone); and the New Haven (inspired by Connecticut’s famed clam pizza, but theirs is topped with baby clams in a rich herb sauce and finished with asiago).
Yelp/ Kim T.
This no-reservations, family-owned neighborhood gem is the little pizzeria that could; it actually won second place in last year’s American Pizza Championship in Orlando. You should definitely order the pizza that won them the prize (the Magnolia Rosa, with red onion, mozzarella, and Mississippi pecans), but you really can’t go wrong, especially if you also order the Patate, with olive oil, thin-sliced potato, mozzarella, cheddar, bacon, chives and sour cream. Yes, they went there.
Yelp/ Kathy L.
While the thin and unleavened crackery crust Imo’s is known for is almost like one you’ll find in a bar pie, it’s generally known to be a bit sweeter than typical bar pies, and meant more than anything else to act as a vehicle for the unique cheese topping that makes St. Louis style unlike any other slice you’ll have ever tried: Provel, a white processed cheese said to be a combination of Cheddar, Swiss, and provolone invented in the city’s Italian neighborhood shortly after World War II. Just as you’ll get different stories about who exactly invented Provel, the origin of the style is also debated. Imo’s is widely credited, but Farotto’s, which is said to have opened in 1956, eight years before Ed and Margie Imo opened Imo’s, has its own claim. Whichever story you choose to believe, you can’t deny one thing, Imo’s, with its more than 90 stores, has popularized a unique, love-it-or-hate-it pie you have to try at least once.
Yelp/ Rob R.
Founded by Eugene Barger in 1962 and sold to Arlie and Mary Sue Knodel in 1967, Eugene’s is today run by the Knodel’s two sons, Jeff and Sam. To give you an idea of how popular Eugene’s is, they sell a full line of branded merchandise, they’ll ship half-cooked frozen pies anywhere in the country, and they go through an average of 1,3333 pounds of cheese per month. You can choose from one of their “Time Proven Combinations” (Arlie’s Special, with pepperoni, Canadian bacon, and homemade sausage, is a popular favorite) or take your pick from 22 different toppings, including hot or cold tomatoes, sauerkraut, and even Mandarin oranges.
Opened in Omaha's Midtown in 1985 by Daniel and Usha Sherman, Zio’s serves New York-style, hand-stretched, thin-crust pizzas made from scratch each day. Over the years, it has expanded into two other locations (one in the earnest and lovely Downtown Old Market, the other in West Omaha) and moved each again to accommodate the crowds that keep coming to fill up the family-friendly spots (it's the kind of restaurant where they give dough to the kids to play with at the table). And along with the crowds come the accolades. As its website proudly declares, it’s the "recipient of more than 33 best pizza awards."
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Gennaro Lombardi’s influence is such that his Spring Street shop almost directly resulted in what’s generally accepted as one of, if not the best, pizzas in Las Vegas. Founders John Arena and Sam Facchini's grandparents settled 50 yards from Lombardi’s, and "ever since those early days, pizza has been at the center of [their] family life" (their parents’ first jobs were feeding coal into the bakery ovens where Sicilian pizzas were made for the neighborhood’s immigrant families).
Metro Pizza (born in 1980 as Original New York Pizza, and renamed in 1986 when they expanded) has been making handcrafted pies with dough made fresh daily and superior ingredients for 30-plus years (there are now six locations). Among the specialty pies, the Milano (mozzarella, ricotta, pecorino romano, and garlic) is a white pie worth noting. Of course, you’ll want to give a nod to at least one of the six "East Side Pizzas" named for New York City streets like Mulberry, Mott, and Bleecker.
Yelp/ Nick S.
Run by the Katsigiannis family for the last 19 years, this 33 year old local favorite has been turning out top-notch pies made with fresh dough (made up to four times per day) and fresh vegetables. The old-school, welcoming spot is making thick-crusted pies loaded with cheese, homemade sauce, and a massive variety of toppings ranging from sliced tomato and anchovy to chicken fingers, eggplant, pastrami, and banana peppers. The steak and cheese calzone is also a major winner.
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What can you say about Al Santillo? Santillo may be the least well-known great pizza tradition curator in America, the gatekeeper to three generations of pizza-making and one of the most unique pizzerias in America. The man has tomato sauce running through his veins. Al Santillo’s grandfather, who had long made focaccia for his family at home, decided to try it as a business in 1950. "He wanted to keep the place open in the evening and make a little more money, so he started making pizza," his grandson Al has noted. "In 1957, he bought the brick oven I use now." It’s an oven Al says is called a low-arch, one whose every brick was cut by hand, and which he insists, "permits infinite possibilities in temperature and character."
Pizza infinity is difficult to conceive, but Santillo’s is something you just have to experience for yourself. You can only do takeout from Al's living room — it houses the massive cathedral-like oven that requires a 20-foot-long peel to retrieve the pizzas. And be prepared to order by the year — Al preserves every pizza style he can for posterity. They range from the 1940 Genuine Tomato Pie (no cheese) to the 2011 San Marzano "Tomatoes Over the Cheese" Pizza. But there are other intriguing options like Lasagna Pizza, thin-pan, Roman-style, Italian bread, and an off-the-menu grandpa pie as well. Start out with a 1957 Style Pizza Extra Thin (14-Inch round), or the popular Sicilian pizza, or just ask this quirky, pizza-possessed master to make you his own spontaneous creation.
Yelp/ Dave C.
Il Vicino has nine locations in the region, and has been going strong in Albuquerque (the original location) since 1992. Pizzas here are baked hot and fast in a wood fired oven, made with fresh, high-quality ingredients, and are inspired by chef Tom White’s trips to Italy. You can build your own pizza using creative ingredients like balsamic onions, green chile, capicola, white anchovies, Portobello mushrooms, and fiery shrimp, or choose from a gourmet selection including Motorino (Alfredo sauce, spinach, artichoke hearts, roasted tomatoes, balsamic onions, and pesto); Prosciutto e Rucola (prosciutto, San Marzano tomato sauce, olive oil, fresh mozzarella, arugula, cherry tomatoes); and Tartufo (truffle mushroom cream, mozzarella, Portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, and chopped parsley).
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Domenico DeMarco is a local celebrity, having owned and operated Di Fara since 1964. Dom cooks both New York- and Sicilian-style pizza for hungry New Yorkers and tourists willing to wait in long lines and brave the free-for-all that is the Di Fara counter experience. Yes, you're better off getting a whole pie than shelling out for the $5 slice. Yes, it's a trek, and sure, Dom goes through periods when the underside of the pizza can tend toward overdone, but when he's on, Di Fara can make a very strong case for being America's best pizza.
If you want to understand why before visiting, watch the great video about Di Fara called “The Best Thing I Ever Done.” You can’t go wrong with the classic round or square cheese pie (topped with oil-marinated hot peppers, which you can ladle on at the counter if you elbow in), but the menu’s signature is the Di Fara Classic Pie: mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, plum tomato sauce, basil, sausage, peppers, mushrooms, onions, and, of course, a drizzle of olive oil by Dom.
“Omaggio” is Italian for “homage,” and everything this restaurant does is an homage to its Italian roots. The restaurant itself is modeled after authentic Italian pizza restaurants, the ingredients are as fresh as can be, and pizzas are cooked in a blazing hot oven. There’s a massive variety of pizzas on offer, including 13 “classic” pizzas (for example the Calabrese, with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, homemade Italian sausage, pepperoni, pecorino Romano, and olive oil) and 8 white pizzas (including the Pera Gorgonzola (whole milk mozzarella, gorgonzola, and sliced pears). If you’d prefer to decorate your own pie, you can choose from 30 different toppings including homemade Italian sausage or meatballs, San Daniele prosciutto, basil pesto, and goat cheese.
Yelp/ Nisa T.
“Prairie made. Hell fired” is the motto of Blackbird, which got its start slinging artisan pizza pies from a mobile truck that would cater events on weekends. Its success was largely dependent on the quality of the ingredients used – flour from North Dakota wheat, seasonal local produce and herbs – as well as the years of trial and error that went into perfecting the dough and technique. Today Blackbird is one of Fargo’s most popular restaurants, serving some truly outstanding pizza with creative toppings like béchamel, housemade sausage, Granny Smith apple, and fresh sage; and roasted chicken, housemade sweet chili and peanut sauces, fresh peppers, red onion, snap peas, and cilantro; and béchamel, mozzarella, Canadian bacon, smoked bacon, maple syrup, and a sunny side up egg.
Yelp/ Nishant S.
Iron Chef Michael Symon and Jonathan Sawyer may be among the most well-known Cleveland chefs nationally, but if you asked them about the Ohio pizzeria that deserves attention, they’d likely single out Vero Pizza Napoletana helmed by Marc Aurele. This Cleveland Neapolitan pizzeria is serving a leopard-spot charred Neapolitan crust that should be the envy of many a Naples-obsessed American pizzaiolo. The 13 pies on the menu are garlic, sausage, and egg heavy — as if that’s something to complain about.
Yelp/ Burns T.
This super-hip pizza spot and beer garden is a fun time through and through; it’s always a party in here, and the pizzas are made with care and precision but are also so creative as to be ingenious. Look past the silly names like Notorious PIG (bacon, pepperoni, sausage, capicola, and Canadian bacon) and The Midnight Cowboy (BBQ marinara, mozzarella, cheddar, feta, brisket, roasted poblano, red onion, and BBQ sriracha) and you’ll discover that these pies (several of which are available by the slice) are downright awesome. Make sure you try the Figgy Stardust, with basil pesto, fresh mozzarella, figs, chicken, and prosciutto.
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Apizza Scholls serves the best pizza in Portland, and, some argue, north of San Francisco. It’s not an unquestioning, Erich Segal Love Story mutual obsession, though. The pizzeria does have guidelines for patrons composing their own topping combos on Apizza’s 18-inch pies: only three ingredients, and no more than two meats per pie.
So choose wisely from a list of toppings that, in addition to classics like anchovies, red onions, garlic, pepperoni, house-made sausage, and basil, includes Olympia Provisions capicollo, house-cured Canadian bacon, cotto salami, arugula, and pepperoncini. (Yes, you can also top pies with jalapeños, mushrooms, pepperoncini, ricotta, green and black olives, and, sigh, truffle oil.) Just remember: Bacon is "not offered for build your own toppings."
If you aren't up to building your own pie, there are 13 classics to choose from with names like "Pig & Pineapple," "Tartufo2 The Electric Boogaloo," and "Sausage & Mama." Among them, you’ll find the signature Apizza Amore: Margherita with capicollo (cured pork shoulder) that has a spicy kick offset by the somewhat sweet mozzarella and balanced sauce.
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Founded in 2013 by Joe Beddia, who had the idea to make “the best pizza I can” with “the very best ingredients sourced from the best farms” in the Fishtown neighborhood northeast of Center City, Pizzeria Beddia has become the Franklin Barbecue of the pizza world, an up-and-coming Philadelphia spot catapulted to the national spotlight by Bon Appétit’s restaurant and drinks editor Andrew Knowlton. Its pizza-obsessed owner is known to have worked in some of the city’s hippest restaurants as a server before setting out on his own.
"I would say it's Neapolitan, but it's not really,” Beddia explained of the style of balanced-topping pies he aspires to make in his brick-lined gas deck oven. “I don't want to say New York style, either but I guess that's what it is.” There are just four pies, currently: No. 1 (tomato, whole-milk mozzarella, Old Gold aged cheese, and extra-virgin olive oil with the suggestion to add cremini, pepperoni, roasted onion, anchovy, pickled chiles, and/or sausage); No. 2 (asparagus, fresh cream, oyster mushroom, and ramps); No. 3, the “Arrabbiata” (labeled "angry"); and No. 4 (tomato, anchovy, garlic, oregano, and Old Gold).
Angry is what you may become when trying to sample this ballyhooed pizza. Pizzeria Beddia is only open Wednesday through Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., they don’t have a phone, only take orders in person, have a maximum order of two pizzas per party (not per person), and are cash-only. Keep in mind that there’s also no public restroom. This is important given that Beddia only serves 40 pies a night and that people start lining up as early as 2:30 p.m. “If there are more than 25 to 30 people in line, we are likely sold out,” warns Beddia’s site with “peace and love.” The place could be described as a millennial version of Brooklyn’s Di Fara.
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On South Main Street in the heart of Providence, Rhode Island, Al Forno offers quintessential Italian dining for those who can’t afford the flight. Husband-and-wife owner-chefs George Germon and Johanne Killeen received the Insegna del Ristorante Italiano from the Italian government, a rare honor for Americans, attributable to their informed passion for pasta along with their invention of the grilled pizza.
George passed away a couple years back, but chef David Reynoso carries on Al Forno’s tradition. It’s a style that celebrity chefs have been noting on TV for a while now, and that’s spawning its own offshoots. The restaurant bakes six pies in wood-burning ovens and on grills over hardwood charcoal fire. Their most notable grilled pizza? The Margarita [sic]. It’s served with fresh herbs, pomodoro, two cheeses, and extra-virgin olive oil.
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The town of Monza houses an historic Italian speedway where every year since 1922, owners of the finest cars, from Alfa Romeo to Ferrari, take the curves of the 6.25-mile track. Monza in Charleston, S.C., feeds off the history of its namesake city to offer handcrafted pies.
Monza uses imported San Felice wheat flour, Neapolitan yeast, and filtered and pH-balanced water to develop their version of the most traditional-style pizza possible. The pies are baked in the wood oven at a sweltering 1,000 degrees F, allowing for a thin and crispy crust, and are topped with mozzarella with fresh and usually regional ingredients.
Yelp/ James P.
This Aberdeen gem is turning out some truly fantastic slices, custom pies in four sizes, and creative pre-designed ones. Choose from a wide variety of toppings or take your pick from super-creative styles including Spaghetti Pie (spaghetti, sausage, tomato sauce, parmesan, and mozzarella); Hot Ham and Cheese (Canadian bacon, white cheddar, mozzarella); Chili (chili, onions, and jalapenos); Taco (chicken or ground beef, refried beans, hot sauce, olives, tomatoes, white Cheddar, mozzarella, and crushed tortilla chips); and even Pot Roast (shredded roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, red onions, and black pepper).
Hog and Hominy
Whether you call it “Italian dining with a Southern drawl” or “Italian cooking, Southern roots,” the fact is you’re going to have an amazing meal at Hog & Hominy. Menu options include a beef and Cheddar dog in a pretzel bun with yellow mustard; an order of sweetbreads with spicy peanut agrodolce; poutine with neckbone gravy; or an amazing burger (lunch only) topped with pickled lettuce, American cheese, onion, and mustard dedicated to one of the country’s best food writers. Now factor primetime pizza into the equation.
There menu has expanded from nine to include 14 pies on the menu, which are tended to in a painstakingly monitored oven (built using bricks from the original building’s chimney) on the side of the restaurant. There’s the enticing Red-Eye (pork belly, egg, Fontina, celery leaf, and sugo); Down With the Shine (corn, fontina, leeks, and garlic cream); and Chicken of the Sea (clams, chili, lemon, arugula, and pesto). But the signature is the Prewitt with fontina, tomato sauce, boudin, and scrambled eggs. Try it, Mikey. You’ll like it.
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With a pedigree that includes a degree from the Culinary Institute of America and stops at The French Laundry and Café Boulud, it’s not a surprise that chef Shawn Cirkiel found success with his restaurant Parkside. But culinary degrees and hifalutin restaurant experience don’t necessarily mean you can make great pizza.
Lucky for Austin, Cirkiel can and does, serving pizza cooked in a wood-fired brick oven from Naples at 900 degrees. There are seven pies at The Backspace, featuring toppings like fennel sausage, kale pesto, and picante salame. According to the restaurant, the most popular pie is the Bianca, a pizza with arugula, mozzarella, ricotta, and pecorino romano.
Whether it's downed with an aranciata like in Naples, or Texas-style with a glass bottle of Mexican Coke, well… that’s up to you.
Yelp/ Lala P.
Settebello really goes above and beyond in its efforts to make pizzas that are as close as possible to what you’ll find in Naples. Flour, tomatoes, prosciutto, and Parmigiano-Reggiano are imported from Italy; pancetta and Finnochiona come from Seattle’s renowned Salumi, and salame comes from Berkeley’s Fra’Mani; and pies cook in a thousand degree wood-burning oven (handmade in Naples) in less than a minute. The menu doesn’t get too crazy (no pot roast pizza here!) but that’s a good thing; keep it simple with a Margherita DOC or the popular pizza carbonara, with crushed tomatoes, pancetta, egg, mozzarella, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil.
At Vermont’s best pizzeria, pizzas are made in the traditional Neapolitan style, cooked in a 900 degree Acunto oven. The owners of Verita, which has been in business for five years, have built relationships with some of Vermont’s finest local farmers and food producers, and the end result is a product that combines the best of Italy with the best of Vermont. Try the Margherita for simple perfection, try the Salsiccia e Rapini (with housemade sausage, tomato, fior di latte, broccoli rabe, Grana Padano, and fresh basil) to see how skilled the kitchen is, and try the Burrata (with local Maplebrook burrata, pecorino Romano, grape tomatoes, and fresh basil) to sample great local artisan cheese. And make sure you finish with a pizza alla Nutella!
Pupatella originated as a food truck in 2007 and went brick-and-mortar three years later. This two-room storefront with the sign out front that warns "Pizza Addicts Only" is the D.C. culmination of Enzo Algarme’s experience hanging around the some 200 or so pizzerias in Naples where he was born. Pupatella, a name borrowed from a late relative ("what everybody called my grandmother in Italy," he told The Washington Post), is run by Algarme and his life (and business partner) Anastasiya Laufenberg. Their oven’s bricks were built using volcanic ash from Vesuvius — hard to get more authentic than that outside Naples.
They offer red and white pies — mostly the former — with accoutrements like ham and mushroom, prosciutto and arugula, chorizo, sausage and onion, eggplant and red pepper on top. But Pupatella’s most popular pie is the Capricciosa (featuring sautéed mushrooms, marinated artichokes, prosciutto cotto, and fresh mozzarella). Algarme’s website is charming enough to win over even the most skeptical — his FAQ explains what bufala mozzarella is, why there are leopard spots on your crust, why a real Margherita is wet in the middle and never crispy, and why you'll never see a Neapolitan tossing dough. And they "love foodie bloggers."
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Once upon a time, the District of Columbia was a pizza desert, a land where khaki-wearers bided their time until the fortunes tied to two-, four-, or six-year cycles became clear, resigning themselves to late-night calls to Domino’s and hoping Manny & Olga’s wouldn’t turn them off pizza for good. They suffered locals’ misplaced love for Ledo’s and watched with frustration as Adams Morgan’s jumbo slices edged increasingly close to the half-smoke as one of the city’s signature dishes. Thankfully, those days are over. Thanks, 2Amys.
2Amys’ membership in the D.O.C (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) means its pizzaiolos adhere to the guidelines of what the Italian government deems a pizza should be. When you take a bite, you know you are getting a quintessential, traditional pie. Their menu is broken into D.O.C pizza offerings, stuffed pizzas, and more traditional but uncertified options, but panelists voted the namesake pie (tomato sauce and mozzarella).
You’d expect no less than pizza greatness from Seattle star chef and James Beard Award winner Tom Douglas, and at his three Serious Pie spots in Seattle (Virginia, Westlake, Pike) that’s exactly what you get. These are thin-crust, oblong pizzas about a foot long and imbued with serious soul (there are also huge corniciones).
Consider the pizza mission statement that greets you when visiting their website: “Serious Pie: a pizzeria with a bread baker's soul, serves up pies with blistered crusts, light textured but with just enough structure and bite. Our attentiveness to each pizza in the 600°F stone-encased applewood burning oven preserves the character of housemade charcuterie and artisan cheeses from around the world.”
The menu features seven pies with toppings like Yukon gold potato, soft-cooked free-range eggs, smoked prosciutto, truffle cheese, snap peas, StraCapra (a washed-rind semi-soft goat cheese), and clams, but you’ll want to try the sweet fennel sausage, roasted pepper, and provolone pie that was voted one of the top 50 pizzas in the country this year.
Yelp/ Rich M.
This eclectic and adorable little restaurant is located inside an old house in the heart of quaint Charleston, and New England Culinary Institute-trained chef-owner Cary Charbonniez has cultivated a laid back and welcoming environment while serving artisan pizzas from a stone hearth oven that are just about perfect. You can create your own pizza, but we suggest you sample some of chef Cary’s suggestions, which aren’t exactly traditional. The Steak & Cheese pie is topped with flank steak from Swift Level Farm, white Cheddar, red onions, jalapenos, and fresh garlic; Fig Jam & Rosemary is topped with fig jam, gorgonzola, fig jam, and fresh rosemary; and the Spicy Shrimp & Sausage has ground Italian sausage, shrimp, roasted tomatoes, and goat cheese. You can go half-and-half on large pizzas, and if you want to eat it at home they’ll even coo it halfway for you so you can finish it in your own oven. Did we mention that this place is low-key?
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First-generation Italian-American Liborio "Bobby" Zaffiro opened Rock-a-Bye Tap, where he started serving thin-crust pizza with the help of his brother John before they opened Zaffiro’s in 1956 to make a go of it full-time.
It all worked out beautifully for the Sicilian-blooded brothers until John's 1988 retirement. Bobby died the year after, at which point his wife and two sons took over. Zaffiro's has stayed in the family, and is now helmed by Bobby's son Michael Zaffiro.
However, the tradition of a thin-crust Milwaukee pie topped with about three to four times the cheese than crust lives on at this Wisconsin icon where, among the 11 classic pies on the menu, you’ll find two “E”-centric menu items with one difference between them: the E has everything (toppings-wise at least), and the EBF has everything but the delicious (yet divisive) anchovies. If you’re not an anchovy devotee, opt for the latter and appreciate one of Milwaukee’s pizza gifts to the nation. Or try one of their two new pies: the Italian Veggie Supreme and the Meat Lovers.
Yelp/ Renee J.
Bella Fuoco started as a food truck back in 2012, and last year owners John and Maria Kopper turned it into their dream restaurant in a historic Downtown Charleston house. Today, they’re making fresh dough daily and turning out some astounding pizzas and breads in their old-school wood-fired oven. Try the weekly rotating chef’s special, design your own from 26 topping options, or try one of theirs, like the Veggie Galore, a red or white pie topped with onions, peppers, zucchini, olives, spinach, and mozzarella.